Death toll in Rashid migrant boat disaster rises to 202 as boat is recovered

Thirty-three bodies were recovered on Tuesday as a wreck of boat that sank off Egypt last week with hundreds of migrants aboard was lifted from the depths, raising the confirmed death toll to 202, a local official said.

The boat capsized off the Mediterranean coast on Sept. 21. Rescue workers and fishermen said they had rescued at least 169 people, but uncertainty remains over how many might still be missing.

Regional governor Mohamed Sultan said the number of bodies recovered was "almost final" but rescue workers were still looking for human remains at sea.

The boat named "Mawkeb al-Rasoul" was winched to the surface by a ship belonging to an oil company

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday it believed at least 450 people were aboard the vessel and that about 300 perished in all.

"It is one of the worst tragedies of this year, but not the worst," IOM spokesman Joel Millman told a briefing in Geneva.

"We are concerned about what this says for the rest of the season as the weather turns cold and seas get more difficult."

Egyptian security sources initially said there had been almost 600 migrants aboard.

Officials said the boat was carrying Egyptian, Sudanese, Eritrean and Somali migrants, and that they believed it was heading for Italy.

Hundreds people, including relatives of the victims, gathered on shore on Tuesday, awaiting the arrival of bodies. Dozens of ambulances were also standing ready to transfer the victims to morturaries.

Border guards prevented fishermen from transferring the bodies to shore, taking charge of the process themselves

Meanwhile, thousands attended funerals for many victims whose bodies had been released from mortuaries for burial.

Thousands participated in the funerals of the victims and offered condolences to their families in Sharqiya.

Four members of the crew were arrested last week after they were found among the survivors. Since then, a number of other people have been arrested in connection with the case. Beheira security officials said the owner of the "Mawkeb al-Rasoul" was among those being detained, along with 12 owners of smaller boats that transferred the illegal migrants to the vessel. Another 19 people who helped the victims make their journey have also been taken into custody, said security sources.

Ehab Tamawy, the secretary of Parliament's Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, said that those who take part in human trafficking can be sentence to life imprisonment if found guilty, along with a fine of LE500,000 or a sum equal to what the defendant received from migrants.

He pointed out that Egyptian law views the illegal migrants themselves as victims in the case, while the human traffickers are the ciminals.

More and more migrants have been trying to cross to Italy from the African coast over the summer months, particularly from Libya, where people-traffickers operate with relative impunity. But boats have increasingly departed from Egypt of late as Libya has slipped deeper into lawlessness.

The IOM says that more than 3,200 migrants have died while trying to cross the Mediterranean this year, while more than 300,000 have reached European shores. More than 1 million Middle Eastern, African and Asian migrants entered Europe in 2015.

The IOM said the number of migrants to arrive in Europe this year likely would not reach last year's level though the number of fatalities was virtually certain to exceed the 2015 total.

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